Toyota Wages Web-Video Warcraft

By Staff Published on .

Situation: For the last four years, advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi’s Los Angeles office has created ad campaigns for the Toyota Tacoma truck that employ so-called found footage, creating spots that appear to be user-generated. The segments have proven popular, circulating on video-sharing sites. The ads are not found at; it’s strictly a video-sharing strategy.

“We set out to do the Tacoma work knowing that our audience is much more diversified than a pure television audience,” said Saatchi & Saatchi Creative Director Steve Chavez. “We want our consumer to embrace it and the branding.”

The 2007 assignment from Toyota called for a 30-second spot that would convey the attributes of strength and power Toyota wants associated with the Tacoma. Saatchi & Saatchi’s ads for the Tacoma play off the theme of the midsize truck doing something extraordinary.


Industry:Consumer Goods

Video play:Going viral with a TV spot

Strategy:As part of Toyota's Tacoma marketing campaign, the company hired Saatchi & Saatchi to create a spot that would appeal to younger audiences. They chose to place the truck in the World of Warcraft video game environment.

Result:The spot has drawn as many as 3 million views on the Web.

Problem: This year, the Saatchi & Saatchi creative team faced a dilemma, trying to create a spot that would be as popular as previous commercials for the Tacoma.

Past videos have depicted a Tacoma driver leaving his truck on the ocean shore to go kayaking. While he’s gone, the truck is smashed against the rocks by the roaring tide. When the driver returns, the truck is exactly where he left it—unharmed by the onslaught.

In another, a Tacoma driving through the desert is struck by a meteor. Despite a direct hit, the Tacoma drives on. The first spot in the series featured a Tacoma owner’s girlfriend who couldn’t stand competing with the Tacoma for her guy’s attention. She has the Tacoma pushed off a cliff to destroy it. To her dismay, the Tacoma survives without a scratch.

Solution: Saatchi & Saatchi’s creative team went virtual, placing the truck in the World of Warcraft video game environment. The end result is the ad called “Truck Summoner.”

Saatchi partnered with World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment. Both Toyota and Blizzard wanted to remain true to their brands, which meant creating an animated version of the Tacoma and inserting it in the game in an unobtrusive way. Saatchi creative executives placed the video on YouTube on the Friday evening before the spot went on the air.

They wanted it to look like an authentic post by any user on YouTube. By Monday morning, there were multiple additional postings from people who saw it on air and recorded it off their TVs. The spot spawned homages, including a video of a guy trying to “play” the commercial with his videogame controller.

All the software used to build the Tacoma ad into World of Warcraft was proprietary, owned by Blizzard. Saatchi worked with visual effects company Hydraulx, which Blizzard had recommended. Hydraulx animated the Tacoma to place it in the World of Warcraft game.

On a two-month production deadline, a team of about a half-dozen people created the ad. Executives involved in the project declined to say how much the production cost.

The ad features the truck navigating through the video game’s backgrounds, then being scooped up by a dragon. The Tacoma then bursts out of the dragon’s chest, with the monster’s still-beating heart in its bed.

Blizzard was taken by the concept, and now successful players are rewarded with a dragon’s beating heart if they get to level 70 of the game.

Evaluation: After debuting Oct. 6 on television, “Summoner” took off on the Internet. On YouTube, that posting has generated 1.6 million views. Additional postings have come from people acting on their own. All told, the spot has drawn as many as 3 million views. It also has spread virally to blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook.

On television, the ad will continue to play for months to come, through the NCAA tournament and into the summer.

“We were incredibly successful with that campaign from a creative aspect, and certainly a success in sales,” Chavez said.

Since 2003, when the “Unbreakable” campaign featuring found footage began, the Tacoma has been the top-selling compact truck.

“We’re very pleased with the return on investment of this campaign,” said Cindy Knight, marketing communications public relations manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA.

-Allison J. Waldmann

Toyota teamed with Saatchi & Saatchi to create its "Truck Summoner" ad, which went viral on the Web.

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